Guest Perspective: Shonna

Every so often, I’m going to incorporate stories of friends and colleagues and whoever wants to be included to share on the blog. While I like to think my own 100-pound weight loss can be inspiring to many, it’s so important to hear from different voices, as everyone faces unique obstacles and challenges throughout their lives.

I met my friend Shonna working at my current gym where I do personal training. She is a group exercise instructor of several different classes- hello Zumba and strength training- a passionate exerciser, and has a great fitness backstory she agreed to share.

Thank you, Shonna, for visiting GMMCA!

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When did you start exercising? Why? What did you do?
I remember doing tapes and television workouts when I was a little kid (Mousercise and Sweating to the Oldies were my favorites). I played sports a little and took dance lessons, but it was all pretty casual. After high school, I would join a gym and maybe walk on the treadmill or use the elliptical and machines, but I didn’t really have a plan or know what I was doing. I got way more into fitness around 2005 when I worked in the corporate world with a team that was really physically fit. We had a gym in our building and after a lot of convincing, I went to my first Spin class with my coworkers. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t scary at all! From there, I started running, worked with a trainer, and went to more classes.  In 2007, I became a Spin instructor and after being laid off from that corporate job, learned to teach more classes.
How has your routine and philosophy changed over the years?
I’ve become more comfortable with taking risks and trying new things! I really feel like you need to step out of your comfort zone because you never know how much you can do. I’ve also learned that while I love teaching, I need to set aside time for my own personal workouts and goals.
What does healthy living mean to you?
It’s an investment in my future. I have been through some health scares that were out of my control.  I want to be in control of everything I can to keep myself mobile and healthy and living a full life for as long as possible!
Are their any words of advice you’d offer to your younger self starting out on your journey?
Don’t be afraid! The gym, classes, trainers, running groups… they are not as scary as you think. You just need to find what works for you. I feel like some classes or organizations really have a bad reputation, but we are honestly here to help you. I know I try to make my classes as welcoming as possible for all levels and most instructors I know do the same. We all started somewhere!
What inspired you to become a fitness instructor? What do you love/hate most about it?
I was taking Spin twice a week in the gym at my office. They were looking for another instructor and I figured I was going anyhow, might be some good extra money.
I love seeing people achieve things they didn’t think they could. That could be anything from getting in the door in the first place to lifting a heavier weight than they thought possible.
I don’t really hate anything about it in general- but I don’t love when people come in with a closed mind or a negative attitude. It doesn’t happen that often, though!
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone starting out?
Find something you love to do and it won’t be a chore! If you are a social person, go to a class or join a group. If you like to keep to yourself, find a trainer to design a program just for you.
What’s your favorite exercise?
Right now, I love my CrossFit class because it’s different every day. I’m really lucky to have excellent coaches and a dedicated class full of really supportive people at many levels.
You only have half an hour to exercise, what do you do?
Ah! Some HIIT training! A good mix of cardio and strength.
What are you most proud of in regards to your health journey?
I’ve been up and down in weight over the years. Right now, I’m up more than I would like, but I still get out there and work hard. Sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit for that.
What are some challenges you’ve faced over the years?
It’s always the “diet” for me. I got to my goal weight in 2012 and was a vegan. It worked so well for me until I suddenly started experiencing  some frustrating things like gaining back weight and feeling exhausted all of the time. The next year, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and later with thyroid cancer. After a complete thryoidectomy and radioactive iodine treatment (and a full recovery!!!) the vegan diet didn’t work for me anymore. I’m still struggling to figure out what works for me after all of this.
Any healthy eating tips you want to share?
It’s not a one size fits all situation! I feel like the one thing we can all agree on is eat whole foods as much as possible, but after that, it’s so individual!

rebranding

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Almost two years ago, I moved to LA to pursue a career in writing. I had a foot in the door, flirted with the prospect of maybe, kinda, sort of having a measure of success in getting into the industry at the lowest level.

I came home.

For the past few months, it’s been challenging. I’m happy to be closer to family and friends, thrilled to be a new aunt, and proud to be working as a personal trainer and helping people on their health journeys. I’m also happy to have tried LA, lived it, experienced and explored because I do miss it, more than I anticipated.

More than anything, I’m a little lost. As I edge nearer to 30, I feel like I should have my life figured out more than I do. I get so caught up in thinking how my life should be going rather than focusing on where I am right now. I’ve been a little ball of anxious, negative energy and I’m ready to come out of it.

This is evidenced more in what I claim to be most passionate about: writing. In all the articles and books, random words of advice I’ve poured over to make me a better writer, the message is clear, in order to make it as a writer, you need to write. I haven’t.

So here we are again. When I first created Give Me My Crown Already, I was on the brink of graduating college, I had just lost 100 pounds, and I felt as confident and prepared as I ever had in my life.

Since, I’ve learned a lot about what I don’t want to do professionally and more about sacrifices and failures that were unexpected. I’ve gained a few pounds and sometimes hate myself for it because I think I should have this down by now. It makes me skeptical and negative and exhausted.

When I first was losing weight, I knew nothing. I just tried. Exercise was my best friend. Going from nothing to something had fantastic results and working out helped me better to manage my anxiety. I enjoyed food more than I ever did when I was heavily overweight and was making better choices and having fun concocting fun, healthy, and delicious dishes. Over the course of these past six years, I have maintained most of the weight loss, but I long to get back to my lowest. I slipped into some old, bad habits, not necessarily with eating, which I’m okay with, or exercising, which I do six days a week, but with my negativity.

No more.

As I rebrand this blog, here’s what I promise. I’m writing, in many different fashions because I miss it and agonizing over stringing the perfect words together is far more satisfying in the long run than researching what I should be doing with nothing to show for it. I am going to be honest about my progress and how I feel. I am going to try to not let negativity devour me, which means forgiving myself my humanity.

With my two passions, writing and healthy living so intersected, I have the opportunity to share my story and learn a lot more about myself and life. Thanks for your patience.

Join me?

detox

We’ve all had those weekends- we eat too much, feel bloated, tired, gross (for lack of a better word and yet, that word fits perfectly). I’ve heard and read a lot about detoxing- pills, juices, shakes, etc. I promise, nothing beats good old-fashioned moderate eating and exercise.

Here are some of my tips to not let the negative sway you in the direction of unhealthy choices.

  1. Stay positive. Always. Health is a progression. I have the body type that will always require me paying attention to what I’m eating, but I’m determined to not hate myself regardless of what shape my body is.
  2. Rephrase the word “diet.” Especially after heavy eating weekends or vacations, my body craves healthy foods and my mind sets itself on about eating healthier in general. Great, don’t see it as a diet, but a way of life. Mostly, I eat healthy, sometimes I indulge more days than others. Diet is not cutting food groups or counting calories, it’s the way that you eat and it’s not temporary.
  3. Drink water. Drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Drink it before and after that third cup of coffee. I’ve challenged myself to drink a gallon of water every day for a month-I’m on my second week- and I feel great. I’m less tired, I’m never thirsty, but I always have to pee. Always. Drinking water helps flush out toxins and maintains health inside and out unlike any other exterior substance.
  4. Drink tea. I drink at least one cup of tea every day. Green tea in particular has huge benefits. I sip on mine, sometimes with honey, lemon, and cinnamon, sometimes plain, every morning after my standard cup of coffee. For an extra spark, add a dash of cayenne pepper as it may help rev the metabolism. To ease digestion and stomach aches, drink peppermint tea. Just trust me on this one. And it’s naturally decaffeinated, so drink it whenever!
  5. Exercise. Morning, afternoon, or night. Move. Lift weights too, it’s the best.
  6. Don’t overthink it. In many cultures, food is energy, but it’s also celebration. Indulging is a part of life, it should be a part of your diet. Follow the moderation rule as much as possible, but know that there are days when that isn’t going to happen and it isn’t going to matter. It shouldn’t the next day either.
  7. Meal prep. Figure out your favorite, veggie-heavy recipe, and have that be your go-to meal for post-weekend (or whenever-day) indulgences. Mornings always call for a hearty bowl of oatmeal with berries, lunches will be a salad or stir fry, and dinners a piece of fish with rice or quinoa and lots of veggies. Basically, eat a lot of veggies, but again, that should be a constant.
  8. Avoid sugar. I have a dangerous sweet tooth, particularly for chocolate, ice cream, and cookies. I don’t cut them out of my diet, but I try to pay attention to the quality of the treat, as well as the timing. Despite my best efforts, I’ll sometimes feel guilty about eating something, particularly if I feel like I’ve already been bad. Guilt lends to negative connotations surrounding food and eating. Also, the more sugar you eat, the more you want it. Take a break for a day or two to refresh and ensure that whatever sugary (or savory) indulgence you crave is actually enjoyed.
  9. Eat normally. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, you need energy. Just because you ate too much one day, doesn’t mean you don’t need food the next. Pay attention to what and how much you’re eating, but eat.
  10. Occupy your mind. Nothing leads to negativity faster than overthinking it. Too often, I get trapped worrying about my eating habits and berating myself for not knowing or doing better. Sometimes, this could lead to “well, I’ll start over tomorrow” or a sense of hopelessness. The more you think about eating and food from that negative lens, the worse you’ll feel. Do something else you love: read, go for a walk, do a crossword, play a game, watch a movie or TV, text someone, browse the internet, write, find a new hobby.

Reflection Time

First of all, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mama. She’s the best.

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On Friday, I realized it had been five years since I graduated college. This made me reflective and several pages in my journal is a testament to that. The truth is, the years don’t really matter, except that we can no longer count life in “school years.” I am no longer a super-senior of real life. I just am. And yet, I still have nightmares where I’m lost in high school and can’t find my classes, so what does that signify?

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When the picture above was taken, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had just lost a ton of weight, I was graduating with honors, and even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, I had a temporary summer job, and I figured I would figure it out. Five years later and I’ve held five different jobs, all for the better, lending to well-rounded life experiences and honing professional skills, and I keep telling myself that it’s important to figure out what you don’t want to do, as much as what you do want.

Life is not perfect or easy, but I have been blessed. There have been struggles and losses and hardships, but I’m choosing right now to focus on the good. Those top three, since graduating, include becoming a published writer, getting my personal training certification, and moving to LA- if only because I had been talking about it for five years, so it was move or shut up.

*My parents would probably like me to insert my Master’s degree into this list and while yes, this is an accomplishment, I have (un)gracefully retired from teaching and will never use the degree in the traditional sense. Call it an invisible fourth choice if you must.

I should also note that this blog is also five years old and I’ve been trying for five years to find a direction for it, but it’s been chaotic. Such is life.

Looking back at pictures of my friends, I found this gem.

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This was taken six years ago right before I started my weight loss journey. This girl is me, and yet, I do not recognize her. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t particularly enjoy looking in the mirror at this time. But, a few months after this was snapped, I did look at myself in the mirror, long and hard, and I discovered that I was worth more than I realized. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times. My relationship to myself did not better after I lost weight. I chose myself and saved myself because I liked myself, and it helped me find the strength to exercise, eat right, and be kinder to my body, mind, and soul.

It’s funny that I struck this particular pose because in just a few months, I would be employing that strength, both physically and mentally, and completely uprooting my life for the better.

This blurb was longer than I expected when I first started typing, but the only other matter of the weekend I’d like to discuss is that I saw Billy Joel at Dodger Stadium and it was awesome. I love him and I’m not sorry for it.

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Also, Dodger Stadium looks strange without that large looming wall in left field. Just sayin..

Running on Running

Oh running, you awkward bird. Sometimes I love you, sometimes I despise you, and so often, I love and hate you within steps of each other. Regardless, when my feet hit the pavement (or treadmill, ick) and I pull up to a stop, I’m so happy I got through it at all. For me, as running presents my biggest fitness challenge and the one thing I never believed I would be able to do until I did it, it always feels like an accomplishment. And isn’t that the reason we keep going? Not just health, both of the physical and mental variety, but also because it requires that we test our endurance, our power, and our strength. Running, walking, swimming, biking, lifting, dancing, and all of the other great movements our bodies allow us, they are empowering and sometimes that means it’s a struggle.

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My clients will often ask my thoughts on running and my most common answer is that it’s love/hate, but in a way that’s a gift to my body. I try not to do things that don’t feel good or beneficial. This doesn’t mean that DOMS are not very real and sometimes a symptom of working out, but there are always limitations, whether physical or emotional, that come with exercise and it’s all about what feels good and what your body needs and wants to endure to get to its finest health point.

Running also provided me with an excellent excuse to get my booty outside in the sunshine and take advantage of the day yesterday. Not that it’s not completely acceptable to spend some time soaking up the sun in the backyard, but really there’s only so much unproductive lounging you can get away with on a Monday afternoon. So after a grueling, but satisfying strength training session focused on the back and biceps, I headed home and outside for a run. It wasn’t my finest or my fastest. I had run a nice four miler the day before so my legs were questioning my motives, but it was worth it.

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My rest day was also worth it this morning because even though exercise always starts the day off right, gets the good feelings flowing, and keeps you strong, especially when that work includes motivating people to exercise, muscles need time to revover.

If nothing else, exercise is an easy way to do something good for yourself whether it’s for twenty minutes or an hour.

What are you going to do for yourself today?

Colorful Plates

Woohoo sunshine! I just came back from a walk and it is spectacular! To be honest, 52 is a lot colder than I remember, but once I got moving, I warmed up fast.

I realized I haven’t weighed in for a few weeks and the truth was, with everything happening, I hadn’t been paying attention. I did weigh myself yesterday and was pleased to see that I was down another 1.8 pounds, so at least progress is still being made!

To recap the past few days, on Monday, I had another total body workout that was butt kicking, but before that, I ran my fastest two miles on the treadmill! I intended to just hop on for 15 minutes to warm up, but once I got moving, I was feeling real good and decided to go for it. Tuesday was my rest day, as well as my long work day so there was no workout to be had, but I did still make it past 10,000 steps- the perks of being a personal trainer!

I do have some food pictures to share.

We’ll start with this breakfast, an egg and two egg white scramble with cheese, two pieces of whole wheat toast, bacon, and a berry medley.

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Next is a veggie-filled lunch with zucchini noodles, baby spinach, peppers,  cauliflower rice (which is pulsed cauliflower and very delicious), and chicken.

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Another veggieful (autocorrected into vengeful) dish included turkey taco meat over more cauliflower rice and a stir fry of zucchini noodles, spinach, peppers, and carrots, a dollop of sour cream on the side.

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I’ve definitely upped the vegetables in my dishes, which is making me fuller faster. I’m also not opposed to carbs in anyway, but I am trying to keep them at lower portions and only for two meals out of three. Especially when I’m training, I find I have to eat more frequently, so using an app to track has been helpful, but I’ve also come to rely a lot more on my body’s natural signals. For snacks throughout the day, I’ve stuck to hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, almonds, Greek yogurt, fruit, and veggie sticks. Breakfast still remains my largest meal of the day, one because I love it the most and two because I need more energy in the morning.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Warming Up the Winter

Right now, I’m gearing up to go out for a run because I can’t get over how mild it is. It’s not by any means warm, but for this time of year, wowsa! Anything that can take me off the treadmill and into the real world works for me.

I started my morning with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before heading off to work for some training sessions. I still get nervous in my preparation mode, but so far, I’ve been having a blast!

By the time I got home, I was starving, but in the mood for a weird combination of foods. I was craving an egg sandwich, so I popped in an english muffin and topped it with a slice of provolone, a chicken sausage, and an egg. While everything was cooking, I enjoyed a few carrots to munch on to curb my hunger. To go with my sandwich, I sautéed spinach and had a handful of tortilla chips. Weird assortment, but fulfilling.

I’ll take us back to last night’s dinner, which was blackened salmon, sweet potato fries, and a mixture of cauliflower, peppers, and brussels sprouts.

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Going back even further, we can sneak a peek at yesterday’s lunch. It was a huge salad with a leftover piece of pizza topped with artichokes, mushrooms, and spinach.

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My workout included circuits working the biceps, shoulders, and back. Along with the strength training, I did some core work as well as sprints on the elliptical. It’s strange because the body parts that are hurting today are the ones I worked out on Monday, legs, triceps, and chest. Although, no matter what I do, I never seem to have sore biceps. It’s weird.

Now I’m off to bundle up and enjoy a bit of sunshine!